COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ experiencing symptoms long after virus

For many COVID-19 survivors, testing negative is not the end of the road. They call themselves ‘COVID long haulers.’

“Will I ever recover from it? No, I don’t think so,” said Michael Flor, a Seattle man who spent two months in the hospital with the virus starting back in March. He nearly lost his life. He said his doctors told him all of his major organs failed. It’s been a long road.

“A day hasn’t gone by I haven’t thought about the experience, what it means to survive, what can I do to help others,” he said.

Still regaining strength, he no longer walks with a cane like he did just three months ago, but what he can’t shake is what he calls COVID fog.

“If I forget something or if I can’t remember something simple, someone’s name, first thing I think of is COVID,” he said. 

It’s something he fears will be with him forever, like the virus. Still, he feels like one of the lucky ones, not only because he escaped death but because his lingering side effects are not as bad as others.

“Very few people are as sick as I was but so many people have after-effects of COVID that are just devastating to them,” he said. 

That’s how another person in the support group feels too. She was never hospitalized from the virus like Flor, but she still feels it in her body more than six months later. 

“I feel a thousand years old and I feel ancient and I feel really frail, I don’t feel like myself,” she said.

The normally active real estate agent and new grandmother contracted the virus back in March and said she initially had immense trouble breathing but was never hospitalized. She got some relief from an inhaler. 

To this day, she said she still deals with fatigue, the memory fog Flor also talked about, and other symptoms she can’t explain - like rashes and clots that require urgent medical attention.

“I feel like it’s really impacting us internally and I don’t know what that means,” she said. “My fear for myself and everybody else is, has this shortened the health of our life, has it compromised us and for how long?”

She regularly turns to an online support group, Survivor Corps, to make sense of the lingering symptoms and to know she’s not alone. 

Unfortunately, there are not enough answers about the long-term impacts of the virus. With so much unknown, survivors hope sharing their stories will encourage others to take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting it in the first place. 

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Flor said.